Friday, May 29, 2015

Words I Needed

It's been a rough week. Actually, a rough few months. It's come to a head with all of the emotions this week, and now I feel like I can take a deep breath and take that next step forward.

Part of this is due to a couple of great things I've seen this week. First, Kid President. I love Kid President. He's not only adorable, but he just has this way of saying things that makes sense. "Go be awesome," he says, to end this latest video, a graduation speech.

But even better, is his shouted, "You know what? Be your own Beyonce!" He's absolutely right--there is only one Beyonce, and I don't to be her, I want to be me. I want to be the music teacher who brings laughter and fun to her classroom through great music and creative teaching strategies. I want to be the Meg who often feels awkward in most social situations, but hides it well. I want to just not worry about comparing my life, as it is right now, to others. Because if I'm 100% honest, losing this job makes me more aware of all the ways I'm not necessarily "keeping up with" my peers. I start comparing myself, and it only drags me down. What I need to focus on are my own possibilities. For heaven's sake, I'm about to start training for my third half marathon. Me! Five years ago, the word "running" still made me grimace and cower. Today, I got genuinely excited about buying a new pair of running shoes.

Today, I finally clicked on a link that's been floating around my Facebook time line for a few days now. I have loved Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie since I was first introduced to her absolutely brilliant TedTalk, "The Danger of a Single Story," two years ago. She later gave another phenomenal TedTalk about feminism, and I've read one of her novels, "Half of a Yellow Sun." The delay in clicking on the link to her speech at the Girls Write Now awards was more about feeling too tired to take in more information, and not at all about disinterest.

Of course, it was worth the click.

After the general thank you's she gives, she goes on to give this incredible advice to young girls who write (and, perhaps, to women like me, writing my own story here at the humble Little Pink Blog).

I think that what our society teaches young girls, and I think it's also something that's quite difficult for even older women and self-professed feminists to shrug off, is that idea that likability is an essential part of you, of the space you occupy in the world, that you're supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likable, that you're supposed to hold back sometimes, pull back, don't quite say, don't be too pushy because you have to be likable. And I say that's bullshit. 
So what I want to say to young girls is forget about likability. If you start thinking about being likable you are not going to tell your story honestly, because you are going to be so concerned with not offending, and that's going to ruin your story, so forget about likability. And also, the world is such a wonderful, diverse and multifaceted place that there's somebody who's going to like you. You don't need to twist yourself into shapes.

This is so beautiful and brilliant and true. All year, while going through the evaluation process and seeing Mrs. Principal finding fault in the silliest of things ("that song is too easy...that song is too hard...why are you letting the guys sing that part lower? Well, even with the voice change, it sounds wrong..." The list goes on and on.), I still gritted my teeth into some semblance of a smile and nodded my head, agreeing to try things her way because I didn't want to be the bad egg.

And guess what happened? She got rid of me and hired an old friend who needed a job.

It happened with me being nice, and it would have happened had I looked right at her and said, "Jennifer, you don't know these kids. I work with them every day and I know what they are capable of, and what they need help with. Please trust me to run this choir program as I see fit."

Perhaps I'd feel more satisfied, if I'd forgotten all about likability and tried standing up for myself.

Who knows?

But either way, this quote is going to stick with me, and "Be your own Beyonce!" might just become my motto. I needed both of these this week.

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